First movie First 3D movie First colour movie First 3D colour movie

First 3D colour movie

1. The technology

2. The human subject

First 3D 2-colour movie

Untitled, 1936

Made in the 2-colour Ufacolor process, an untitled documentary showing scenes of the 1936 Dresden Reichsgartenschau was shown to the German Stereoscopic Society and the German Society of Cinematographic Technicians on 27 May 1937 by Professor Dr Ferdinand Bauer, as part of a presentation on '3-D Projection with Polarizers in Teaching'. This film seems later to have become confused with the 1937 Zum Greifen nah, which was not made in colour, as sometimes stated. [Sammons, Hayes, p371, Widescreen Movies, 3-D Revolution; private communication from Ray Zone, 2009; in February 2011 it was reported that the rediscovered So Real You Can Touch It (a rough translation of "Zum Greifen nah") is indeed in black and white—Holdsworth]

In April 1913 Theodore Brown (1870–1938) demonstrated his Kinoplasticon system, which has been said to have projected stereoscopic colour moving pictures with synchronised Vivaphone sound, at the Scala Theatre, London. The process was pseudo-stereoscopic, however, making use of the theatrical illusion known as 'Pepper's Ghost'. Additionally, although Stephen Herbert considers it likely that the Kinoplasticon demonstration used projected Kinemacolor motion pictures, the lists of 1913 Kinoplasticon films at both IMDB and Bioscope include only black and white films. Furthermore, contemporary coverage in The Times newspaper (classified ads, and the 28 April review) makes it clear that, although Kinemacolor films were exhibited as part of the Scala show, they were not part of the Kinoplasticon demonstration. [Zone, pp68-9; Herbert; Terramedia; The Times]

In the early 1980s a team led by Victor G. Komar made several short holographic films (5 minutes in total) with two-colour 3D images; successfully displayed in 1984, it is likely that they were animations, however. [Johnston, p185; Holocinema; Komar]



First 3D 3-colour movie

New Dimensions, 1940

On 10 December 1936 an exhibit at the New York Museum of Science and Industry apparently included a demonstration by Polaroid of the "world's first three dimensional movies in full color." As 'Polaroid on Parade', this became a regular feature at the museum and ran there for many years [McElheny: 75, 114]

The polarised 3D Technicolor short New Dimensions (1940; later re-packaged and re-issued as Motor Rhythm)  qualifies: although principally known as stop-motion animation, albeit of real action, there was a live action sequence featuring the narrator, Edward 'Major' Bowes. It was a remake in colour of 1939's polarised black and white In Tune with Tomorrow, made by John Norling for the Chrysler Corporation's exhibit at the New York World's Fair. It employed Norling's own dual-camera rig, with red, green and blue sequential animation separations taken through colour filters mounted in front of each lens. The film is now available on the 3-D Rarities 3D Blu-Ray. [Cornwell-Clyne, Zone, Hayes, McElheny: 83-4; 3-D Rarities booklet]

Kontsert (known as Land of Youth during production) was made in 1940 in the Soviet Union (released there on 4 February 1941). Described as a parallax stereogram motion picture, it was directed by Aleksandr Andreyevskiy; the stereofilm supervisor was Semyon Pavlovich Ivanov. A 40-minute short, it is a documentary celebration of Russian culture, including its wildlife, architecture and landscapes. Filmed in black and white, it has occasional colour inserts. A five-minute clip from Kontsert (side-by side stereographic) is available on YouTube. [Zone, Hayes, 3-D Revolution, Blundell]

Pete Roleum and His Cousins (1939) is an animation, so doesn't qualify for inclusion here.

The earliest 360° cylindrical panoramic movie filmed in colour was the 1955 version of America the Beautiful, shown at what was then the Circarama theater at Disneyland. Its Circle-Vision 360° technique is directly comparable to the much earlier Cinéorama.

3D lenticular postcards were in production from the 1950s. The earliest example in colour, with motion capture, is of a woman winking, and dates from 1966–1969 (the used postcard is dated 1969-12-18). This is reproduced in 2D on p197 of Timby.



First colour 3D feature film

The first colour 3D feature film was Robinson Kruzo, for which filming began in 1941, but which was released on 20 February 1947, in the Soviet Union. It was photographed on 70mm film with side-by-side stereo images having an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. The director was Aleksandr Andreyevskiy, and the stereofilm supervisor Semyon Ivanov. It is said to contain an extraordinarily effective scene in which a cat walks out into the audience. [Zone, Hayes, Sammons, 3-D Revolution]

The first polybiochromatic anaglyphic film was released in December 1969. It was a softcore sex film called Swingtail, filmed in Cosmovision, and directed by Dave Shane. The difference between this process and the 'Deep Vision' polybiochromatic anaglyphic system employed by Stephen Gibson, for the first of his own adult films, The Playmates (August 1973), is unclear: Cosmovision's colour filters are not known, while Deep Vision is said to have used cyan instead of green filters, apparently allowing for the rendering of the entire visible spectrum, providing more natural colour. [Hayes, Ray3DZone]



Full references for printed works

Adrian Cornwell-Clyne (1951) Colour Cinematography, 3e

R.M. Hayes (1989) 3-D Movies. A History and Filmography of Stereoscopic Cinema

Victor K. McElheny (1998) Insisting on the Impossible. The Life of Edwin Land. New York: Perseus Books

Eddie Sammons (1992) The World of 3-D Movies, downloadable from the virtual library of the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference

Kim Timby (2015) 3D and Animated Lenticular Photography. Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter

Ray Zone (2007) Stereoscopic Cinema & the Origins of 3-D Film, 1838–1952. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky


© 2009–2023 Benjamin S. Beck

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This page was last revised on 2016-09-13.